(Charles Spencer’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 12/21.)

Hurrah! The Swallows and Amazons have sailed up the Strand and docked at the Vaudeville for Christmas, and, if you find a better family show on offer this festive season, feel free to send me the dreaded black spot.

First seen at the Bristol Old Vic last year, the production is funny, fresh inventive, and at times deeply affecting. This is a remarkable achievement as Arthur Ransome’s famous children’s novel, first published in 1930, seems a touch remote and stuffy these days. I remember struggling with all the nautical terms as a child, and found the children dull and priggish, especially in comparison with the anarchic delights of Richmal Crompton’s William stories.

But here it all works like a dream, almost literally so, as the story begins with the now elderly Titty (no nonsense here about changing the name to something less likely to cause stifled sniggers) looks back on her childhood adventures in the Lake District, creating them afresh from the cluttered attic of her memory.


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